Male circumcision, condoms gets a boost

Monday, November 29, 2010
Sydney Masinga

Mbombela - The Mpumalanga government has budgeted an extra R100 million for male medical circumcision and condom distribution to reduce HIV infection in the province for the financial year ending in March.

Finance MEC Pinky Phosa said last week that R60 million would be spent on condom distribution, with the remainder earmarked for male medical circumcision.

Health department spokesman Mpho Gabashane said studies had shown that circumcision could reduce the chance of being infected with HIV by 60 percent.

"We therefore encourage all males between 15 and 49 years old to get circumcised. However, safe sex remains important at all times. Being circumcised is no alternative to condom use," Gabashane said.

But the local branch of the California-based National Organisation of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, an NGO that promotes what it calls "genital integrity", said it was against the idea of promoting male circumcision as a way to fight HIV.

"The promotion of male circumcision is sending the wrong message and placing women at greater risk of HIV. Males will be circumcised and they will no longer use condoms, which will put women in danger of being infected. We still need to promote condom usage," said director Dean Ferris.

The Treatment Action Campaign, however, has thrown its weight behind the campaign, although Mpumalanga branch spokesperson, Simonia Mashangoane, said it would keep on encouraging couples to use condoms.

"Even though we fully support male circumcision, we call on our brothers to protect our sisters by still using condoms, even after circumcision. Condoms should remain the number one tool in the fight against HIV," said Mashangoane.

According to 2009 statistics by the Health Systems Trust, an NGO that researches health systems in the SADC region, Mpumalanga has an HIV prevalence rate of 34.7 percent. It is the second highest rate in South Africa, after that of KwaZulu-Natal, which stands at 39.5 percent.

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